What Is the Best Gundam Series to Start Watching?

Female Gundam figure with long, white hair, a purple vest, and two swords.

If you know anything about Gundam models, you’re probably aware that they’re based on anime shows.

There are quite a few different ones out there, so it might be a little overwhelming when you want to start watching them.

What is the best Gundam series to start watching? Gundam shows have several timelines, and each timeline has shows that take place in that timeline. It’s recommended to start with the first show, Mobile Suit Gundam, in the Universal Century timeline, which was the first one created in the franchise. 

There are many different routes to take when it comes to watching Gundam anime, so it’s ultimately up to you and what flavor of Gundam you like.

Gaining an understanding of the different Gundam universes and all of the associated shows will give you a better idea of where to start.

What Was the First Gundam Series Ever Made?

In 1979, Mobile Suit Gundam was born. It was the beginning of the many Gundam franchise shows which led to the Gundam models.

There’s even a Gundam show about kids building Gundam models!

Mobile Suit Gundam is the beginning of the Universal Century universe.

There are several universes in the franchise, which will be discussed in further detail in the next section.

There are many shows that come after Mobile Suit Gundam that continue the storyline.

The first series sets up the storyline of this universe. There’s a One Year War fought by the Earth Federation (the good human guys) and the Republic of Zeon (the evil space guys).

If you know anything at all about the Gundam shows, you probably have some knowledge based on this storyline.

It’s the most popular storyline, and Mobile Suit Gundam is the most popular show because it’s the one that started it all.

An Explanation of the Gundam Universes

As previously mentioned, there are different Gundam universes. Each universe has its own storyline. Different shows tie into the different universes.

The After Colony show has almost nothing to do with Universal Century shows.

You can’t try to watch an After Colony show to understand an aspect of a Universal Century show because they don’t follow the same story.

If this is difficult to follow, think about the Power Rangers. The 1993 Mighty Morphin Power Rangers has different Rangers and villains than the 2005 Power Rangers S.P.D.

They might be the same franchise, but they share almost nothing in common, and you don’t have to watch one to be able to understand the other.

Let’s take a closer look at each universe. Since they’re all independent of each other, knowing the different storylines can help you decide which one you want to start with.

Universal Century

The One Year War takes place in this universe. It’s a battle between earthlings, the Earth Federation, and space people, the Republic of Zeon.

Obviously the space guys are the villains, and the viewer is supposed to cheer on the earthlings.

This is the largest and most developed universe in the franchise. Each show is given a year in the universe that it takes place, so you can watch it chronologically.

The shows listed in Universal Century chronological order are:

Show Year
Gundam: The Origin 0068
Mobile Suit Gundam 0079
MS IGLOO 0079
The 08th MS Team 0079
0080: War in the Pocket 0079-80
0083: Stardust Memory 0083
Zeta Gundam 0087
Gundam ZZ 0088
Char’s Counterattack 0093
Gundam Unicorn 0096
Gundam F91 0123
Victory Gundam 0153

It’s important to note that Mobile Suit Gundam was the first show that was made, and Gundam: The Origin came second.

However, in the Universal Century universe, the events in The Origin happen before those that happen in Mobile Suit Gundam.

Notable Shows:

  • Mobile Suit Gundam – Because it’s what started it all.
  • The 08th MS Team – This one takes place in the One Year War, but instead of focusing on pilots and others directly involved, it focuses more on average citizens. Plus, the animation looks great.
  • Gundam Unicorn – This show has a flashback to the year 0001, which serves as a great wrap-up to the Universal Century.

After Colony

The After Colony universe might be more familiar to western countries, but it’s actually the smallest. It has one show and a movie. The universe isn’t fleshed out like the Universal Century universe.

In this universe, the earthlings are portrayed as the villains as the show focuses on five different Gundam pilots.

The Universal Century universe has heavy political themes, but After Colony doesn’t focus on that as much. Instead, it tells the stories of the five pilots and why they fight.

The show is Gundam Wing and the movie is Endless Waltz.

You have to watch the show first in order to understand the movie, as the movie goes more in depth into the characters of the show.

Cosmic Era

You could probably consider the Cosmic Era to be “Universal Century 2.”

The Cosmic Era basically polishes the Universal Century. It keeps the political undertones but brings in a new style of animation.

What makes this one different, however, is the shift in focus. Instead of earth versus space, it’s now natural humans (the Natural) versus genetically modified humans (the Coordinators). 

There are four shows in this universe:

  • Gundam SEED.
  • Gundam Seed Destiny.
  • C.E. 73 Stargazer.
  • MSV: Astray.

You don’t have to watch the Universal Century shows in order to understand Cosmic Era shows since it’s essentially the same story told in a different way.

One-Shot Universes

There are several one-shot universes within the Gundam franchise.

What are these? They’re shows that don’t really have anything to do with the other universes.

You can watch one of them and understand the entire story without needing to watch anything else.

The stand-alone shows are:

  • After War – Gundam X.
  • Future Century – G Gundam.
  • Anno Domini – Gundam 00.
  • Correct Century – Turn A Gundam.
  • Advanced Generation – Gundam AGE.
  • Regild Century – Reconguista in G.
  • Post Disaster – Iron-Blooded Orphans.

What Gundam Series Should I Watch First?

It’s best to start with a Universal Century show because this universe is the most developed and detailed, and each show adds to the story and pays attention to the chronological order of events.

Mobile Suit Gundam was the first show ever made, but in terms of the universe chronology, Gundam: The Origin comes first.

Since Gundam: The Origin was actually produced and aired after Mobile Suit Gundam, The Origin relies heavily on its predecessor, and you might not understand what’s happening if you watch it first.

The chart below gives you three recommendations.

It’s difficult to say which series to watch first since people tend to have different ideas about how chronological order should be interpreted. (Star Wars fans know a lot about this debate.)

Show Universe Reason
Mobile Suit Gundam Universal Century The first show ever made. It kicked off the entire franchise, and if you have any basic knowledge of Gundam, it probably came from this series.
Gundam: The Origin Universal Century If you want to watch the show chronologically according to the universe, watch this one first. The events happen before Mobile Suit Gundam.
Gundam SEED Cosmic Era This universe is essentially Universal Century “remastered.” If you’re not fond of old animation, you can get the general idea of the UC story with this series. However, the story is told much differently.

Remember that the one-shot universes stand alone.

So, if you don’t want to make a full commitment to a universe that has multiple shows, you can get your feet wet with one of the universes that only has one show.

You’ll be able to understand everything happening in the world based off of the one show alone.

Summary

The Gundam franchise has many shows for you to choose from. If you’ve never watched one before, it can seem overwhelming knowing where to start.

When in doubt, start from the beginning. The Gundam beginning is Mobile Suit Gundam, made in 1979.

Although the animation might not have aged well, it’s the beginning of the shows and models and is a great place to start.